For a busy manager, conducting mid-year performance reviews — especially when they’re optional — can feel like extra, unnecessary work. But when done right, mid-year reviews are an opportunity to share feedback in a more relaxed setting than an annual review, emphasize support and dedication to an employee’s learning and development, and ensure team members are on track to hit year-end goals.
And skimping on mid-year reviews won’t win you any points with your staff. A 2019 Joblist.com survey found that one-third of employees would like to receive more feedback from their managers. The same study also uncovered that nearly 60% of employees receiving regular feedback during informal meetings were extremely or very motivated at work.
Because of the benefit to employees and companies alike, mid-year reviews can be a valuable piece of your performance management strategy. Here’s why your company should be conducting them.
Mid-year reviews provide a chance to share feedback in a more relaxed setting than annual reviews. While annual performance reviews also serve as an opportunity to reflect on past performance and discuss goals moving forward, they’re official, formal, and tied to weighty consequences, like pay raises and promotions.
At most companies, mid-year reviews are not formal, making them a unique opportunity to provide feedback in a lower-pressure environment. Managers are free to frame the mid-year review as a developmentally centered conversation, which will enable them to provide resources and remove blocks for their team members. Additionally, within the more relaxed framework of a mid-year review, employees may more readily receive hard-to-hear feedback, share concerns, or embrace ambitious goals when the pressure is off.
“Annual reviews are about reviewing progress and issuing an assessment based on it, while mid-year performance reviews give you the chance to have a constructive [conversation] in a slightly less formal setting,” said Daivat Dholakia, Director of Operations at Force by Mojio, a GPS fleet-tracking app.
The mid-year review is also an opportunity to contextualize feedback. “All too often, organizations [or] individual managers only have an annual review process. While any feedback is good feedback to have, if it's done in a bubble, it's less likely to be acted upon and/or incorporated into future goals,” cautioned Lori Scherwin, certified professional coach and founder of executive coaching firm Strategize That.
Employees are eager for personalized feedback. Yet, as a manager overseeing a team, making time to provide the attention each employee needs can be challenging.
Consistent check-ins, including a mid-year review, are a way to reiterate to employees that you’re invested in their success and care about their career progression. “Delivering feedback more often than the formal annual review will give you a chance to let your staff know you actively care about their development,” said Scherwin. “[By doing so, you can] coach them rather than simply evaluate them.”
Scherwin noted that mid-year reviews remain optional in many organizations. But, she said, “taking the time to prepare and conduct a thorough and thoughtful review signals to employees that you’re invested in their career and development.”
Managers can use a mid-year review to strengthen their relationships with their employees by facilitating a dialogue, rather than making the conversation one-sided. “Ask [your employees] how they think they’ve done so far this year, what their upcoming goals are, and what support they need to achieve these goals,” Dholakia advised. “I’ve learned a lot from asking these questions during mid-year performance reviews.”
Asking questions shows your employees that you value what they have to say. Taking it a step further, asking follow-up questions like, “What can I do to help you achieve your goals?” demonstrates your commitment to their success.
Annual reviews tend to be rearview mirror look-backs, focusing on an employee’s past performance. That performance is then rewarded with raises or promotions, or in some cases, penalized with written warnings or by being placed on a performance improvement plan.
Mid-year reviews also focus on the past, but through a solution-oriented lens of improving performance and reaching developmental goals by the end of the year. They’re an ideal time to praise employees for accomplishments, motivate team members for continued success over the next six months, and collaborate on strategies for improvement, if necessary.
But as is true of all performance management, the key to a fruitful mid-year review is to provide actionable feedback. For example, in the case of an employee who needs to improve their presentation skills, Scherwin suggested giving specific, detailed feedback in the following way:
“Saying,‘You are struggling with presenting clearly’ might be true, but isn’t going to help anyone,” she said. “Instead try, ‘We need to work on your presentation ability to get to the next level. At the X client meeting last month, you made a nice deck, but when it got to Q&A, you were less prepared. Going forward, let’s do a mock run-through and develop a proactive expected-questions list in advance so you can develop this [skill].’”
Actionable feedback helps managers clarify expectations, and gives employees a blueprint as to how to perform better. While vague or subjective feedback may create confusion, specific, actionable feedback offers employees solutions.
HR pros will tell you the first rule of performance management is “No surprises.” Aim to adhere to this guideline in mid-year reviews, too. Mid-year reviews are a piece of the overall performance management picture, which also includes the annual review and regular check-ins, giving managers many chances to share praise and raise concerns. Conversely, springing new information on an employee can create tension and degrade trust in the relationship.
While “No surprises” is a non-negotiable rule, following-up on previously discussed areas of underperformance or opportunities for improvement is a smart way to establish a precedent for these sometimes tough conversations.
Scherwin advised getting as granular as possible in your feedback. “Actually tell your employee if they are meeting, exceeding, or underperforming your expectations, so that they have a chance to improve before the official year-end review and bonus process begins,” she said.
While your staff members should already know how you believe they are performing, conducting mid-year reviews can ensure that employees understand what they need to do to excel by year-end.
According to a 2017 article on high-performing team members published by McKinsey, “The best workers do the best and the most work. But many companies do an awful job of finding and keeping them.” The authors build a case for employee engagement as the key to employee retention, especially among top performers. Just a few years later, this is commonly accepted business knowledge, yet employee turnover remains a costly issue for many organizations.
Managers can take advantage of mid-year reviews — in conjunction with other regular check-ins like one-on-ones — to counter some of the main reasons employees leave, like feeling unappreciated or unengaged.
Mid-year reviews provide a prime opportunity to bolster engagement among high-performing team members. By recognizing achievements, asking thought-provoking questions, seeking input and ideas, and offering new challenges, managers can demonstrate they value these employees’ contributions and opinions, respect their ambitions, and want them to remain at the company and thrive in their roles and beyond.
Mid-year reviews are a valuable addition to your overall performance management strategy. They give managers the opportunity to guide employees back on track, if necessary, and offer high-performing employees praise, acknowledgement, or new challenges. On the flip side, mid-year reviews give employees a chance to hear what they’re doing well and where they can improve, as well as ask questions and reiterate their career goals to managers.
When used as part of a comprehensive performance management program, mid-year reviews are a powerful tool for building an engaged, valued, and productive workforce that feels recognized and supported by their manager and organization.